A researcher checks equipment that collected data during a prescribed, stand-replacing fire conducted by the Richfield Ranger District in the Fishlake National Forest, Utah, on June 20, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo by Roger Ottmar.
Weather permitting, the Fire and Smoke Model Evaluation Experiment (FASMEE) is planning another prescribed stand-replacing fire in the Fishlake National Forest, Utah, in early November.
Led by scientists Roger Ottmar and Sim Larkin with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, FASMEE is a large-scale, multiagency effort designed to identify how fuels, fire behavior, fire energy, and meteorology interact to determine the dynamics of smoke plumes, the long-range transport of smoke, and local fire effects such as soil heating and vegetative response. The FASMEE team collects observations from large prescribed fires, such as the one in the Fishlake National Forest, by combining LiDAR, radar, ground monitoring, aircraft and satellite imagery, and weather and atmospheric measurements. Other data from the experiments are being used to validate and improve models that help land managers predict fire and smoke severity, and to improve firefighter safety standards and guidelines.
The FASMEE team successfully executed the first large prescribed fire in the Fishlake National Forest in June 2019. With researchers and wildland fire crews in position, weather and smoke monitoring equipment activated, and camera-carrying drones launched, air crew ignited the fire in forest stands with heavy surface fuel loads. The controlled fire addressed two needs: The primary goal of the planned fire was to increase forest biodiversity by removing conifer trees and stimulating the regrowth of aspen. The FASMEE team used the opportunity to gather valuable data about fire behavior, fuel consumption, and smoke movement in conditions that mimicked a high-severity wildfire.
Knowing more about how wildland fire operates will help land managers better predict fire behavior, smoke impacts, and the short- to long-term effects of fire. It will also promote increased public and firefighter safety and aid in the allocation of firefighting resources. The June 2019 experiment was featured in Vice News and can be watched here.
Models for projecting fire behavior and smoke impacts are increasingly relied on during decisionmaking and planning. However, many models lack suitable data for adequate validation and evaluation. Land managers have identified this as a critical problem, stating that validation data collected from operational prescribed burns and wildfires is a crucial need for progressing and transitioning newer models and systems into operation.
To address these requirements, the FASMEE campaign design includes a study plan to guide the suite of required measurements in forested sites representative of many prescribed burning programs in the Southeastern United States and increasingly common high-intensity fires in the Western United States.
Other outcomes from this multiyear effort include a LiDAR geodatabase for fuel measurements and modelled fire characteristics for the following wildfire aviation campaigns:
The Forest Service Is About to Set a Giant Forest Fire—On Purpose (The Atlantic, October 23, 2019)
Fire Forecasting Goes Into the Wild (NASA, September 19, 2010)
Multiagency Effort Goes Deep Inside a Crown Fire (USDA Blog, July 29, 2019)
Watch How the Forest Service Burned Down 2,000 Acres for Research (Vice News, July 23, 2019)